The importance of wilderness

“Wilderness areas act as a buffer against species loss, as the extinction risk for species within wilderness communities is—on average—less than half that of species in non-wilderness communities.” 1

A recent study published in the Journal Nature titled “Wilderness Areas Half The Extinction Risk of Terrestrial Biodiversity” mapped several locations around the world where maintaining wilderness areas should be a priority. The first statement the authors make in the abstract in this paper really hit the nail on the head for me.

“Reducing the rate of global biodiversity loss is a major challenge facing humanity, as the consequences of biological annihilation would be irreversible for humankind. 1

In this single sentence the authors make clear that the steady march of human activity, as currently, conducted could potential be catastrophic to all life on earth.

“Wilderness areas act as a buffer against species loss, as the extinction risk for species within wilderness communities is—on average—less than half that of species in non-wilderness communities.” 1

The paper points to several locations on the plant especially important to protect yet the authors also state that all wilderness areas have intrinsic conservation value thus we can all play a role by supporting local conservation efforts of wilderness area near to each of us. Below we showcase a few wilderness area we have recently spent time in. They are both beautiful as well as safe havens for biodiversity.

Click any photo for slide show.

Absoroka-Beartooh and Lee Metcalf wilderness areas.

References:

1. Reference: Di Marco, M., Ferrier, S., Harwood, T.D. et al. Wilderness areas halve the extinction risk of terrestrial biodiversity. Nature 573, 582–585 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1567-7

For a short summary of the article visit Science daily.

A couple of groups that support the missions of wilderness as a buffer for biological diversity are:
The Wilderness Society
The Half-Earth Project

Three Billion Birds: follow-up.

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We recently linked to a study finding that over 3 billion birds have been lost from the ecosystem in North America as well as a study indicating that perhaps 66% of North American Birds are threatened with extinction resulting form anthropogenic climate change.

For those who are interested we just received an email informing us of an online presentation this Monday evening Nov, 4th at 7pm EST by Dr. Ken Rosenberg of the Cornell Laboratory of Orinthology titled “3 Billion Birds Gone: The Bird Crisis and What We Can Do About It“. Importantly it looks like this presentation will focus on the broader implication of the results of these findings beyond birds.

Looks to be an interesting presentation.

Swimming through air

An interesting new study by V. B. Baliga, I. Szabo, D. L. Altshuler entitled Range of motion in the avian wing is strongly associated with flight behavior and body mass suggests that rather than the shape of a birds wing per se it is the range of motion in the elbow and wrist joints that determine how a bird swims though the air. Some birds glide smoothly like a bald eagle while other can hover like a hummingbird and this paper suggest range of motion in the joint is the key. A interesting read for those who are interested both in biomechanics and evolutionary biology.

You can find a short summary in Science Daily here.

Orobanche uniflora

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I can’t say it better than it is stated in this NY Times article “There’s simply no way to talk about the beauty of Orobanche uniflora without raising a lot of eyebrows.”

Commonly called Naked Broomrape or sometimes Flowered Cancer Root this wonderful flower with unflattering common names was a new one to us when we came across it in meadow on a recent hike.

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It is a short leafless plant unable to photosynthsize thus gaining it’s nutrients by parasitism. Often using sedum, saxifrages and asters as a host plant. Typically growing only up to 3 inches tall we found this cluster buried deep in the grass.

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It is a beautiful little flower and very unique to say the least.

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Marbled Godwit:Limosa fedoa

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Marbled Godwits currently face pressure from habitat destruction in both their nesting grounds, the short grass prairies of the northern plains, and their wintering grounds, inter-tidal mudflats along the pacific coast. Prairies are being converted to crop land and mud flats being filled for development. It’s easy to forget birds sometimes need two intact ecosystems to thrive and protecting habitat is perhaps the single most important thing we can all do to protect the abundance and diversity of life on our planet. And who does not like both abundance and variety.